From Pencils to Pixels: Oregon’s Multimedia Artists and Animators

by Emily Starbuck

August 13, 2018

Multimedia artists and animators create visual effects and animations for television, movies, video games, advertising, and other media. Many artists and animators are employed in the information industry, including motion picture and sound recording industries and software publishing. Workers in this occupation design and create movies, games, and visual effects using film, video, computers, and other electronic tools. Most artists and animators work in a specific field, and often are responsible for just one part of a larger project, such as character design or background scenery in a game or film.

An Emerging Occupation in Oregon

Employment of multimedia artists and animators in Oregon has increased rapidly over the past decade, with further job growth expected in the next 10 years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Oregon has one of the highest concentrations of multimedia artists and animators in the country, second only to California. Oregon is home to several companies that employ artists and animators including SIE Bend, a video game developer and division of Sony, and Laika, an Oscar-nominated stop-motion animation studio.

The Conference Board’s Help Wanted Online program provides data on online ads for job vacancies by occupation for counties and metro areas across the country. As of July 2018, there were 17 help wanted ads online for this occupation in Oregon, 13 of which were new ads posted that month. Ten of these ads were for positions in Multnomah and Washington counties, indicating that the current demand for this occupation is strongest in the Portland area.

Education and Skills

The typical entry-level education for multimedia artists and animators is a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Because these workers design all visual aspects of a film or video game, creativity and strong artistic abilities are essential to success in the field, as are computer and technical graphic design skills. Applicants must also have a portfolio of previous work that demonstrates their skills. Portfolios are especially important for artists and animators that are self-employed freelancers – in 2016, the BLS reported that 59 percent of workers in this occupation nationally were self-employed.

Many colleges in Oregon offer bachelor’s degrees in related fields, including Portland State University, the University of Oregon, the Art Institute of Portland, and the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Several community colleges also offer associate’s degrees or certificates in fields such as animation, digital arts, graphic design, game and interactive media design, and web page digital/multimedia and information resources design. Most of these programs require that students take a portfolio design class to assist in their future job search.

Job Growth and Wages Highest in the Portland Metro Area

In 2017, 73 percent of Oregon’s multimedia artists and animators were employed in the Portland tri-county area (Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties). The Portland area is also expected to add the most jobs in this occupation through 2027, with a projected growth rate of 10 percent. Nearly all of the annual openings (88%) in Oregon will be replacement positions due to employees changing jobs or retiring rather than new growth openings.
Nationally, the BLS projects 8 percent job growth for multimedia artists and animators from 2016 to 2026. Oregon ranks seventh in the nation for net job growth in this occupation during that projections period.

Multimedia artists and animators make above average wages in Oregon. The 2018 annual average wage for this occupation was $78,654, compared with the annual average of $52,380 for all occupations in Oregon. Workers in the Portland tri-county area make slightly more, with an average wage of $81,336 in 2018.

Overall, the occupational outlook for multimedia artists and animators is positive, especially in the Portland area, where employment is projected to grow and wages are higher than average. As the demand for mobile gaming and applications increases, those artists and animators that keep up with rapidly changing software will be more competitive in their field.


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